Thursday, April 30, 2009

Run run run

"We all get our hearts broken sometime. Whenever I do, I go jogging. The body loses water when you jog. So I don't cry as easily. I can't be crying."

-Chungking Express (1994)

{I'm in love with this movie I first saw in film class, and that movie gave me my first taste of Asia}

I'm lucky enough to live right across the street from the only mountain in Montreal, and every single morning my friend and I out on our sneakers and go for a run. It's been so much fun. The weather is getting warmer, and the city view from the top is amazing. So much better than the gym, the trails can be a little difficult and steep, and working out with a friend is always motivating. How do you stay in shape?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Silly memories

January 1, 2009... roaming the streets of Seoul.... drinking Asahi beer... and going to those typical Asian photobooths where you can take silly pictures and add some funky designs all over it... Korean style! Fun, happy times.

(click for bigger view. you can even see that the beer can made it into the picture, and we made heart-shaped poses à la Korea)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

In between list

I'm finally, finally starting work, which marks the end of my post-Korea phase (or trauma, as I'll forever remember it). Here's a list of things I accomplished in almost three months, from the day I landed in Canada on Valentine's day:

-Travelled to Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise
-Baked cookies, muffins, brownies, cakes, and cupcakes
-Learned how to use an oven again
-Spent countless hours in the neighbourhood cafés
-Read more blogs than I can remember
-Watched the whole Friends and SATC series
-Read the Sonic Youth biography
-Applied for about 200 jobs
-Went to maybe 4 interviews
-Got one job, that did not even require an interview
-Cleaned out my closet
-Ran miles and miles at the gym
-Went jogging at the moutain quite a bit with friends
-Went on a few shopping sprees at American Apparel
-Got some IKEA furniture
-Drank more wine and mojitos than I'd like to admit on weekday afternoons
-Applied for jobs in Japan and Korea (did I really do that?!)
-Got a job in Japan (wh-wh-what????! um, more on that later. i'm not going anywhere right now!!)
-Went to a few local concerts (I missed the Montreal music scene so much)
-Missed Korea and all the friends I had there
-Made some new friends in Montreal, and got re-acquainted with old ones
-Went to bed at 3am and slept in late
-Worried about my finances (um, being unemployed for 3 months is bad for the bank account)

Hmm. Maybe those last months weren't the most prolific of my life, but I think I needed that kind of break between Korea and 'real life'. It's time for me to start my job, I'm going CRAZY here even though I got used to this new routine. I'm so, so excited to be back in my field!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Montreal Spring

Montreal gets about two whole months of warm weather, so it's easy to see why people get ecstatic when the snow melts and the sun starts shining. At the first sign of spring, it seems like the whole Montreal population wakes up and spends time outdoors. The parks are full of joggers, people having picnics and walking dogs. The numerous outdoor patios ('terrasses') get crowded with people enjoying glasses of wine or beer.

And apparently I live across the street from one of the trendiest, newest wine bars in Montreal, Buvette Chez Simone. It opened while I was in Korea, and I could see people talking about it all over the internet. Obviously I had to go see what the hype was all about, not once but twice in the past week. It's a cozy wine bar with a wooden interior and a tapas-style menu. The good thing is, it's fairly inexpensive (to fit my post-Korea budget), and very, very fun. They even play music by Cat Power (I'm obsessed with anything that is remotely related to Sonic Youth).

I went the first time with a girl friend, and last night with one of my best friends, who is heading to Japan for a 2-week vacation and wanted some tips. It made me so excited to talk about it, but so sad (and a tiny bit jealous) at the same time. We then moved our little party to another bar down the street, as more of our friends came and joined us. Ah, the joys of partying on a Wednesday night, my last chance to do so! The night ended on a less classy note (with a slice of 99-cent pizza) but I'm proud to say that I was jogging on the mountain at 10am this morning!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What remains

Along with my hair still being stick straight from the reconditioning treatment last year, recurring nightmares about cockroaches and burglars, here's what remains of Korea in my daily life, these days.

{My Starbucks planner, mostly in Korean with a Seoul subway map inside. I never saw an North American version anywhere, and I just love it. Oh, and some Korean makeup compacts around it}

{Some souvenir soju shot glasses. I display them in my kitchen, and used them once for a Korean-themed dinner party. I'm sure I'll make more use of them in the upcoming months}

{My MJ keychain, with my T-Money card, which is the Seoul subway transit pass. I love how small and cute it is. I also have a traditional Korean charm next to it}

{Hello, Kitty!! My Hello Kitty dressed up in the traditional Korean costume. Bought it myself, yes}

{My Japan Rail Pass, happily displayed on my desk to remind me about how much I adored Japan, and to remind me to go live there soon...}

{My Hello Kitty necklace. Can you tell I'm obsessed with the cat with no mouth?}

As far as every day items go, that's about it. The rest is a part of me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Korea, and everything after

Life post-Korea is harsh. I've been talking to some of my friends who also went home around the same time I did, and it's been a struggle for all of them. Especially when it comes to finding a job, and just getting settled back, and re-adjusting to life and friends who have changed.

I've been looking online for fellow blogs of expats who went through the same experience I did, and it's been comforting to read that I'm not alone in that situation. Frankly, I've been back for two months, and those two months have been the most difficult and challenging of my life. No kidding. I don't even remember much in the few days following my landing in Canada, everything was such a blur. I was so heartbroken to leave Seoul and friendships behind, and not ready at all to face reality. I did not openly write about the daily struggle on my blog (true to my personal style, I was the same in Seoul when I had bad moments, always trying to show a strong face)- but too many days I just didn't feel like waking up and face the day.

And reality hit hard. Re-evaluating my relationship, my friendships, my career, my future, and what I want out of life. I thought the real challenge was actually living in Korea, but no. Life after Korea is THE biggest challenge to face, as teaching in Korea is a fun ride scattered with cultural confusion (and yes, many times frustration). It doesn't seem like real life most of the time, but it affects everything that comes after.

I'm happy to say things are slowly getting better. I feel a lot more like myself, especially since I found a job I love, in my field. I feel good again, I'm working hard on many things, I want to go out, see friends, and be the Vivian I was in Seoul. I'm moving on, and ready for new and exciting things that are upcoming in my life. I still have no idea what's happening next month, next summer, or next fall, but I have a feeling it might be pretty amazing.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hot Yoga

One thing I missed in Korea was yoga classes. There are a few there, but it's not too popular yet, and it was quite expensive, and not in my neighborhood. I love working out at the gym and go almost daily, but on a lazy Saturday like today I felt like something a bit different. I decided to try the hot yoga classes down the street, also called Moksha Yoga. It's bascially yoga, but done in a heated room to detoxify the body. Regualr yoga is already pretty difficult, and hot yoga is the same, but quite.... hot.

I'm always a bit shy to try new things on my own, but I grabbed my pink Lululemon mat, strutted down St-Laurent and registered for a week trial at the studios. I proudly unrolled my mat at a prime spot, right in front of the fan. Ha ha. Little did I know that the instructor turns off the fan and turns up the heat as the class starts, so my trick did not work.

I worked so hard, and sweated so much I was completely soaked. And, for an hour and a half. Phew. It was a great feeling, and I definitely felt detoxified. I also definitely sweated out the calories of the cheap Pabst beer and Schwartz's smoked meat sandwich from the night before.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Korea nostalgia, and...brownies

Since I got back to Montreal, I've been hanging out a lot (aka drinking mid-afternoon) with one of my friends who actually spent a few weeks in Seoul when I first arrived there last spring. We knew each other through work, and one day I found out through Facebook that she was taking a 2-week vacation in Seoul, so we decided to hang out for a night. I had only been in Seoul for two weeks, and I barely knew the city. Aaron and I left our apartment and met her and her boyfriend in Myeong-Dong, one of the busiest districts in Seoul, for a night of drinking and singing at a karaoke room. It was one of the best nights I had in Seoul, sharing the city with some friends from home, and discovering the Korean nightlife. My friend even got engaged the next day, in Seoul! (I barely made it to work, I was so hungover, and had to cover for Aaron's classes since he called in sick... fun times).

My friend and her (now) fiance loved Seoul so much, and really got into the culture, more than anyone I know. They also happen to live right in my neighborhood, so last night we all gathered for a true Korean feast. She went to the Korean grocery store, picked up supplies, and cooked all the typical Korean dishes: bulgogi (marinated beef), gimbap (California rolls), bibimbap (rice and vegetables mixture), rice, and she even got all the sides dishes, including kimchi. I did my part and brought the soju (the strong Korean liquor that tastes pretty abrasive), and baked some brownies (from scratch!), since we agreed that Korean desserts are not the most exciting.

We had such a great time drinking, eating, and even singing karaoke-style after the meal. It all made us so nostalgic, and for a few hours I missed Korea so, so much. Life was so easy there, I didn't have much responsibilities, taxis didn't cost much, the nightlife went on until early morning, and food and drinks were insanely cheap. Life in Canada is expensive, jobs are hard to find, and I have so many responsibilities. But then again, I live in a cockroach-free apartment, I breathe some clean air, and I can actually bake brownies.

You can leave Korea, but Korea never really leaves you.

PS- Try this amazing and EASY brownies recipe from Nigella Lawson. Just google the conversions. Everyone loved it.